A pregnant Sirjana Gautam, 18, was sleeping when her home started shaking. She rushed out, slipped, and then ran again. Her husband Kamal was out driving a taxi and she was alone at home. “My neighbours were stuck and an apartment wall fell right in front of my eyes,” said Sirjana. “I could not move because I was pregnant and had a sprained leg. I could hear shrieks all around.”
On Friday, days after she witnessed death, Sirjana gave birth to a baby girl. It was the 398th birth at Paropakar Maternity and Women’s Hospital in Kathmandu.
Lying near Sirjana was Sushmita Tamang, 24, whose house was also damaged. She gave birth to a boy on Thursday and is now waiting for her husband to return from Qatar.
The hospital is full of relieved mothers, and worried ones. Renu Tamang, 19, gave birth to a premature baby — seven-and-a-half months old — on Wednesday. Both she are her husband are now praying for the health of the baby, who is currently in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Most at the hospital have earthquake stories to tell. Sabina Dhamang, 21, fell in mud when she rushed out of her house during the earthquake. “She was cooking when the quake came, but was rescued an hour later from our home,” said her husband Dinesh Dhamang.
Sangita Basnet, 18, said she had to spend five days in a tent before she was finally taken to the hospital.
As per a report by the United Nations Population Fund, as many as 1,26,000 pregnant women have been affected by the earthquake.
“Our main building, an old structure, was rendered useless by the earthquake. Women have been coming and we have had to put up tents outside,” said Amar Amatya, the hospital’s administrator. “On the day of the earthquake, we had 26 deliveries,” he said.
None of the babies have been named so far as Nepalese custom demands that the naming is done only 11 days after birth. Holding her child close, Sangita jokes, “I might name him bhukamp (earthquake).”